Laura Putnam is a workplace wellbeing expert, international public speaker, and author of Workplace Wellness That Works. She believes it’s important for employers to show their employees they genuinely care about their wellbeing by setting an example and implementing tangible policies that make meaningful change in their lives.
Putnam has worked with hundreds of organizations and more than 15,000 CEOs and managers to implement workplace wellbeing strategies. Here, she shares five ways employers can prioritize their employees’ wellbeing.
First step is to address root causes. If CEOs and managers want to implement a workplace wellbeing strategy, the first step is to recognize and identify the root causes of the problem. For example, the top drivers of burnout are often about the workplace itself, such as work overload. Once the root causes have been identified, the next step is to implement meaningful change that makes a tangible difference, such as eliminating after-hour emails or unpaid overtime for salaried employees.
Eliminate cookie-cutter employee benefits programs. Study after study shows many employee wellness programs fall short of actually helping. A study by RAND Health found that 80 percent of eligible employees opt out of their company wellness programs. Companies need to recognize that cookie-cutter benefit programs don’t work when the problem is the workplace itself. No amount of therapy or yoga can make up for a toxic boss.
Wellbeing needs to be a collective responsibility. For decades, businesses believed their employees’ wellbeing was an individual responsibility and placed the onus on the individual to seek help rather than looking at the larger systemic issues in the workplace. Today, businesses need to understand that employee wellbeing is a collective responsibility and requires a holistic approach and support from the CEO down.
Managers can be multipliers of wellbeing. Managers play a critical role in cultivating a safe and caring workplace environment. To end the stigma around mental health, including discussions about loneliness, managers should be encouraged to speak openly about their own personal challenges.
Encourage team care, not just self-care. Establishing a culture of friendship within a team is critical. Teams can implement rituals, such as a moment of silence or expressions of gratitude at the start of meetings. These kinds of team care rituals can go a long way in building both friendships, as well as psychological safety.